The Crystal Maze live attraction delayed until 2016

The Crystal Maze liveHappily this is not a three-month game, let alone a three-minute game; the team behind the stunningly successful The Crystal Maze live attraction crowdfunding campaign have announced the following:

Thanks to the incredible response from you, our Pledgers, all expectations have been raised and it is imperative that we deliver a Maze even greater than we ever imagined.

In order to do this, we have had to find a bigger, better venue for the Maze. This has slightly changed our timeline and the Maze will now open in early 2016.

This has the consequence that this site’s plans for an industry-wide meeting in late 2015 must be rescheduled for 2016. More news as soon as it becomes available, and fingers crossed that the extra time spent on the project can result in something truly spectacular, living up to the immense potential.

Interview with the Cyberdrome Crystal Maze team

The Aztec Zone of a branch of the Cyberdrome Crystal Maze in JapanWhat’s your favourite game of all time? Any sort of game: board game, video game, card game, puzzle game, physical game, computer game, role-playing game, exit game, all sorts of other genres of game, whatever you like; compare your favourites from each medium against each other and pick a favourite. Too hard? You can narrow it down to four.

My four, in no order: puzzle hunts at large, the live action RPG campaign I played in at university, obscure mid-’80s hybrid board/computer game Brian Clough’s Football Fortunes and The Cyberdrome Crystal Maze. You can probably have a reasonable guess, among other things, that I was born in 1975.

This site has touched on the Cyberdrome Crystal Maze in the past without going into the detail it deserves. It was a physical attraction, based upon the The Crystal Maze TV game show, where teams raced from game to game about the centre, sending team members to play bespoke physical games or computer games where physical games would have been impossible. These were often as puzzling as the mental games on the TV show, or at least emulated the demands of one of the show’s physical games. It worked heart-breakingly well. The photo above is of the Aztec zone at the branch in Kuwana, near Nagoya in Japan.

I wrote a longer piece about the game roughly half my lifetime ago, and will probably still have reason to write about it in another twenty years’ time. It’s the one topic that I’ve always wanted to write about on this blog but always shied away from for fear that I could not do it proper justice.

However, failing that, here’s something rather special instead. Some detective work led me to the e-mail address of one Carl Nicholson, one of the founders of the Cyberdrome Crystal Maze – indeed, the technical side of the outfit. Mr. Nicholson extremely kindly agreed to answer some questions by e-mail; even better still, his partner in Cyberdrome, David Owers, whose focus was the business side, contributed some answers as well, and Carl has even got in touch with other members of staff. Huge thanks to all of them for their time, effort and responses, as well as for being the people behind a sensational game; it’s fascinating to hear more of the story behind the scenes. Continue reading

10 open questions about The Crystal Maze Live

The Crystal Maze liveThe crowdfunding campaign for the forthcoming The Crystal Maze live attraction has barely 36 hours left to run. Already it has proved extremely successful, raising its original £500,000 goal and then smashing through four stretch goals up to £850,000. Many congratulations to everyone involved! It’s still possible to buy individual tickets through the crowdfunding campaign at £45 each, compared to the announced general admission price of £50 each plus a booking fee. There are still some open questions, though, worth thinking about before you decide if it’s right for you.

1) How many games will you get to play? Each team will get two more per zone than if the campaign hadn’t reached £600,000, apparently, though the facility isn’t putting numbers on it. Exit Games UK – without the benefit of any inside information – looks at the announced playtime of 1 hour 45 and chooses to interpret the graphic as a reasonably literal map. The original show played up to four games per zone; Exit Games UK guesses that there will be six cells per zone and all six will be played by each team, pointing to 24 games per team, or three per player in a full team of eight.

That said, Iain had a rather exciting theory. Suppose some of the games are designed to let two team members play at once. If there are four one-player games and two two-player games per zone, then it would mean every player in a team of eight would get to play in every zone, which would be delightful. This site suspects that the attraction will err on the side of authenticity and stick with one-player games, but would be delighted to be wrong.

If you feel that this isn’t as many games as you’d like to play, it’s always possible to buy all eight tickets and have fewer than eight participants use them, spreading the games less thinly among the team. Theoretically there could even be a single-player team where the player plays every single game, but a lock-in would cause a considerable problem – and a single player may not get so far in The Crystal Dome.

2) Will there be watery games? Exit Games UK would consider it unlikely, taking an initial clue from the decision (which it loves!) to go with the original Industrial Zone rather than the Ocean Zone. On top of everything, it would be a health and safety nightmare; there’s always a drowning risk, and large tanks of standing water have an entirely serious legionella risk as well. The original show appealed to people for many different reasons, including to those who liked to watch people fall into water tanks. Does this mean that people would actually want to play those games, though? If you don’t see a “bring a change of clothing” announcement, expect a dry experience – and when there are so many other strong things that could be done, Exit Games UK would expect the attraction not to try to weakly emulate the genre.

3) How will lock-ins work? With the second stretch goal having been reached, those who get locked in will be taken to a special prison where they might have the chance to earn their escape, without costing the team a crystal, by completing a special challenge. This seems like a decision of practicality over authenticity, which Exit Games UK welcomes. Getting locked in and not being bought out would lead to poor value for money; much as “everybody likes solving puzzles, nobody likes not solving puzzles”, it’s a reasonable approximation that “everybody likes playing games, nobody likes not playing games”. Additionally, splitting teams between zones would be very difficult logistically, not least when there will be different teams circulating around the zones.

4) How soon will you get to play? This site estimates that the crowdfunding campaign has sold tickets to around 2,700 teams: start with the 1,600 “full team at the Maze” tickets that have gone, add 500 for the 125 “four teams head to head” tickets, and so on. Given that the “all day maze access” ticket suggests that there will be 16 teams per day (four sessions, each taking four teams) then this would imply that the facility has been pre-sold out for over 160 days – assuming the location opens seven days a week, that’s a good five months. It seems reasonably plausible that there will be higher demand for Friday-to-Sunday tickets and evening tickets so if your heart is set on one of those then you may have to wait, but midweek afternoon tickets may be more readily available. Exit Games UK wildly (and, again, uninformedly) guesses that games might start at 1:30pm, 4pm, 6:30pm and 9pm… and that the facility might well consider offering 11am games as well.

5) Will there be prizes? This one might not be such an open question, as Exit Games UK recalls (though quite possibly incorrectly!) reading a suggestion that when the four teams meet up against each other at The Crystal Dome, whichever team performs best earns a set of eight crystals. It would not be a surprise to see a monthly leaderboard with the chance for top teams to win activity days in the style of the original show.

6) How will The Crystal Dome work? There’s no reason to believe anything other than authentically – though the actual show used “the magic of television” and got its close-up shots from filming the players on a second attempt where the performance did not matter. In Buzzfeed’s brilliant oral history of the show, the captain of the first episode claims that even then “we realised that if we all lay down we’d stop the airflow and it would be easy” – expect blocking the fans to authentically be prohibited as well.

7) Celebrities? This site decided against getting a ticket to the first night party in the end. Don’t expect Richard O’Brien to show; Richard’s 73 years old, lives on the other side of the world and may not be in the very best of health. (On the other hand, a personal appearance would be a delightful surprise.) On the other hand, there would be a very welcome dash of authenticity if they could get an appearance by the captain of the team from the first Christmas children’s special, one Michael Underwood, who has gone on to have a strong hosting career. He’d be an excellent celebrity guest host if they could book him, not least from his time hosting Jungle Run, a children’s show with more than a little inspiration from The Crystal Maze. Also, just for the crossover kicks: is Hugo (“Treguard”) Myatt still in good health? Other heroes of television of those who grew up with the show, but who may now only be tangentially in the business known as show, spring to mind…

8) How will the spectator experience be? Courtesy of hitting the third and fourth stretch goals, there should apparently be a rather interesting bar area overlooking the field of play, with cameras in the cells to show the progress of the games as they are played. Exit Games UK tends to hold the view that a large part of the appeal of The Crystal Maze is rapidly working out what is demanded of you in the games within the time limit, as well as executing what is required, and that seeing the games in advance (either as a spectator, or because the site has revealed the game’s details) will rather spoil the effect. However, another (probably very much more practical) route to take would be to concentrate on games where knowing what has to be done is easy and actually performing the tasks required is difficult, as spoilers will surely get out by word of mouth if nothing else. Either way, Exit Games UK hopes that the games are really, really good, and that the project gets the very best people in to design them, including those who designed games for the original show.

9) Is there replay value? Will people want to play more than once, or is this something that can only be a one-time experience? This ties in with the extent to which working out what’s required is a part of the challenge. Part of the fun of the experience will be supporting your team-mates, but if you see your friend play a game and go “oh, that looks really fun to play!” then you might well want to come back and do so. It’s possible to go too far, though; it would be inauthentic if an eight played the maze first time, learnt the games, practiced them at home, came back and smashed them all second time around and set an immense high score. You didn’t get second chances on the show, so it would seem awry to get them at the attraction. It may be hard to avoid; it’s practically inevitable that someone will come as a spectator and see the games played through the cameras before they come back as a player themselves. A good – but expensive and probably impractical! – way to do this would be to rotate the games very frequently; a reasonable way to do this would be to replace all the games every year, much as one series of the show had different games to the next.

10) Will it be a long-term hit? Ah, that’s the 64,000-gold-token question. Tickets have already been sold to perhaps twenty thousand or so players, and the show had audience figures in the millions. With the repeats on Challenge? over the years, the show must be familiar to tens of millions of viewers, many of whom will surely want to play. Whether it’s a compelling enough product to convert many potential players into actual players at a regular price of £50 plus booking fee remains to be seen, as well as whether or not £50 per player is actually a price point that makes sense for the organisers in practice as well as in theory. The people behind the enterprise have very convincing track records, though, so they must surely have as good a chance of making it work as any.

Exit Games UK has purchased a “four teams head to head” ticket and will be selling all 32 spaces on to members of the exit games community, both players and staff. A handful of tickets remain; you’ll get the chance to play alongside representatives of Agent November, Archimedes Inspiration, Breakout Manchester, Breakout Liverpool, Enigma Quests, Escape Hour, Escape Live, Escape Quest, The Escape Room and (subject to confirmation) the Escape sites in Dublin, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Newcastle.

The date is unknown, to be confirmed once the facility has an opening date and permits people to start booking their prepaid tickets – but the plan is an afternoon on a Monday, for Monday seems to be about as close to a weekend as the industry has. Purely indicatively, the first choice of date would be Monday 30th November, second choice would be Monday 23rd November and third choice would be Monday 7th December. (Anything later gets too close to Christmas and risks disrupting business.)

The remaining spaces are being sold at the cost price of £32.50 (that’s the £1,000 ticket split 32 ways!) so you might well be interested in them simply on the grounds that it’s more cost-effective than any of the other options, but the company should be spectacular as well. If this interests you, please get in touch by e-mail for the payment options. If you’ve got in touch in the past and received payment instructions but not acted on them then you don’t yet have a guaranteed place and need to move quickly. There may well be a waiting list started, in case people who have paid have to drop out and resell their tickets.

To-o-o-o-o-o-o… the Crystal Dome!

The Crystal Maze has funded! Meet you there?

The Crystal Maze liveJust over a week ago, this site reported on the start of the crowdfunding campaign for a proposed The Crystal Maze Live experience. In about a week, it reached its £500,000 funding target, and has released some stretch goals. Exciting times!

This site also proposed an industry-wide meeting there. There’s been quite a bit of interest, but there’s plenty of room for more, and the project is at the stage where it needs to go from “yes, I’m interested” to “yes, I’m willing to take the risk and plunk down money for it” – bearing in mind that, as with all crowdfunding projects, the project might not happen, or it might happen late, or the meeting might happen at a point where you can’t attend, or so on, and refunds may not be available.

So far, there has been interest expressed by 22 representatives from exit games and 6 exit game players. Sites that have expressed an interest in attending include: Escape (Edinburgh, etc.), Clue Finders, Escape Hour, Breakout (Manchester, etc.), Escape Quest, Agent November, Escape Live, Locked In Games, Can You Escape, Tick Tock Unlock and The Escape Room. These names are still at the “expressed an interest” stage rather than the “definitely will be there” stage, so there’s no guarantee that they will turn up.

Given that some attendees will have a very long way to travel for the event, I don’t think it’s worth holding it unless there are 32 confirmed attendees – plus having 32 attendees will mean that we could book out the whole of the maze for a couple of hours, and the cost of booking 32 spaces is rather lower, per player, than the cost of booking fewer spaces.

There’s a difference between people who have expressed an interest and people who have confirmed their booking. If this can get up to – say – forty or so people expressing an interest, I’ll confirm that the event is happening and then actually guarantee spaces for the first 32 people to pay for their spots. If it’s a struggle to get past 28 “possible”s, then there isn’t the interest. Please tell your friends and tell other site owners!

Some questions have been asked:

Why meet at The Crystal Maze rather than at an existing exit game?

1) So many site operators have posted excitedly that they want to play it, whether the meeting happens or not.
2) It’s not an exit game as such, making it neutral territory in a sense, but it’s something likely to be of interest to exit game companies and players.
3) At least one of the people behind The Crystal Maze also is involved with the Time Run exit game, so the hosts are likely to be interested as well.

When would it happen?

Hard to say. The site hopes to open in October. Already the Indiegogo campaign has sold tickets for approximately 1,600 teams, which will fill the maze for something like a hundred days. It is unclear when people will start picking their dates. It would seem likely that more people would want to play in the evening than during the day, and it would seem likely that more people would want to play at weekends than on weekdays.

It has been suggested that Monday would be a good day to aim for, as it’s traditionally relatively quiet for exit games – and it might be wise to aim for Monday afternoon, so that people might continue to meet afterwards (and possibly visit exit games or other London attractions, who knows?) I would hope that it would be possible to get a Monday afternoon spot at some point this year.

I would welcome people’s input and suggestions in this regard.

Where would it happen?

The location has not yet been published, other than a suggestion of “central London”.

How much would it cost?

If we can get 32 people playing, it would be £32.50 per player, plus your travel expenses.

What happens next?

Please confirm if you would definitely be ready to send money through, and – if so – for how many places. There could be no guarantee that sending money through will result in anything; sometimes crowdfunding campaigns take the money and run, though there’s no evidence of that in this case. There could also be no refunds if the only date that we can get is a date that you couldn’t make, though you could privately resell your spot to someone else.

Get-together at The Crystal Maze?

The Crystal Maze liveThe crowdfunding campaign for the proposed The Crystal Maze Live experience started at midnight. It uses the “flexible funding” model, so donations are collected whether the goal is reached or not. As ever, crowdfunding is inherently risky and there’s no guarantee that the project will reach fruition, let alone be on time. You will have to judge the credibility of the people behind it for yourself; you can imply this site’s opinion by the considerable quantity of jumping up and down going on here. (The Buzzfeed article yesterday is making all the right noises, too.)

The project has a nominal £500,000 goal; the first 20 minutes of the campaign saw half of the 750 “early bird” reduced-price tickets sold, and the rest went within about another twenty. There are a number of enticing options available in the campaign, generally rather more attractive than the proposed full price of £50 per player, plus booking fee. Even once the early bird tickets sold out, the campaign has been continuing to make very strong progress. Crowdfunding campaigns generally seem to need to make a large chunk of their running on the first day and this one has got off to the sort of start that you might hope for it.

The game will be played by teams that start with size eight, not six; four teams will compete at once, one per zone, then the teams will rotate from zone to zone afterwards. As the whole introduction-video-four-zones-and-the-dome experience is expected to take around an hour and 45 minutes, you might care to speculate for yourself how many games each player might be likely to get to play for the money – though watching others play and shouting advice is very much part of the experience.

There are a range of price points available. £25 gets you the chance to be a tester – which sounds great, and potentially gets you a lot of game for your money, but with 500 such tickets on sale, it might be less intimate than you hope. Regular tickets sold in the campaign are £45, or £85 for two. Better values are available if you can get together en masse: £300 for a team of eight (£37.50/player) or £1,000 for a full booking with four teams of eight (£32.50/player).

That’s a very interesting option. Would there be the interest in trying to get a big party of exit game proprietors and players together, with the excuse of a trip around The Crystal Maze at its focus? This is just a call for interest at this point (trying to work out a date might be tricky) rather than a binding commitment – but if enough people go “yes, this is something I want to do, and the right company in which to do it” then perhaps it should be made to happen.

Starting the fans

A pentakis dodecahedronThat’s not just any old picture of a pentakis dodecahedron inside two concentric circles; it’s a picture with a meaning. It’s a picture that arises from a rumour that, as they say, “escalated quickly”, over about the course of a 250-mile train journey and a dinner. Most of the information comes from work performed by Bother’s Bar‘s proprietor and his friends on Twitter, though grateful thanks to Gareth for also posting a link.

People have found a very interesting-looking web site at www.the-crystal-maze.com suggesting a “live immersive experience”; the @CrystalMazeHQ Twitter account, which started following this site recently, made its first Tweet today and has already attracted considerable interest.

Not much more is known about it yet. An “invitation to invest” document has been found online, with the name Little Lion Entertainment at the top. It’s not clear whether the people involved would prefer the link to this document to be made public, or whether the figures in it are at all current. It does suggest that the people involved have very considerable pedigree, notably on Heist in London last year and Secret Cinema, and also that the people from the show that you would hope to be involved may well be getting involved. There has been no indication of timescale; a very early indication of price might be more like that of Secret Cinema, Punchdrunk or a full-price West End seat (though not a premium seat!) rather than that of an exit game – even the newer, higher-end generation that are starting to come out.

Be very sure that this site will be paying close attention. If you can’t wait to get your hands on a crystal, you can already get your own 3D printed 60-sided die, about an inch and a half high; depending on the material, the cost varies from £15.35 to £145.71.

Birthdays and bonus news

Birthday cake with one candleThis site loves it when exit games post about their birthdays, not least because it provides more definitive dates with which to back-populate the Timeline of exit game openings. Happy first birthday for today to Breakout Manchester, for last Saturday to Escape of Edinburgh, and for last Tuesday to Tick Tock Unlock of Leeds, who have a particuarly fun-looking cake.

You may have seen it already, but a few days ago, Buzzfeed posted an amazing oral history of The Crystal Maze with contributions from Richard O’Brien himself, producer David G. Croft, production designer James Dillon, Medieval zone fortune-teller “Mumsy” actor Sandra Caron and first ever team captain Ken Day. Great work.

Here’s a different sort of entertainment, but nevertheless very interesting: Theme Park University reported on the shelving of a theme park project entitled Evermore in which “Instead of the traditional queueing for rides and shows, through wireless technology, guests would be paged via smart phone or other wireless devices to let them know their adventure was about to begin. (…) Each of Evermore’s experiences was to feature a small group that would live out individual adventures filled with live actors, special effects and even some rides along the way.

While this won’t be coming to fruition right now, it seems to have given birth to a mixed reality attraction (and pretty far along the mixed reality spectrum towards the virtual reality end) called The Void. Its trailer video is impressive. That says nothing, but that along with a first-hand report of playing various prototypes sounds extremely promising. Maybe it’s rather lighter on puzzles than would interest this site, but perhaps future games using the system may have more to offer.

Lastly, this site needs to eat some humble pie. You might have detected a little disbelief, or at least hints of sniffiness, that Inverness might support two exit games. This site has drastically underestimated the might and relevance of Inverness, and is delighted to have learned just how wrong it was.

No less a source than the Office of Network Statistics has revealed this data of travel trends for 2014. Take a look at dataset four – and, specifically, table 4.16 within it. It transpires that the ten UK cities that are the biggest destination for holidays specifically (i.e. excluding family visits, business trips and other reasons for visits) are – in descending order – London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester, Inverness and Liverpool tied for fifth, and only then followed by Brighton, York, Oxford and Birmingham. Even if all trips to the Scottish Highlands are categorised as Inverness, that’s still immensely different to what this site would have expected. While another table in the series suggests that visitors to Inverness skew relatively old, perhaps it’s more appropriate to consider Inverness in terms of its tourist destination profile than just its raw size. Maybe it’ll be able to sustain three or more exit games, not just two!

The Crystal Maze at 25

the-crystal-mazeThe first episode of The Crystal Maze was broadcast in the UK on Channel 4 on Thursday 15th February 1990, twenty-five years ago to the day. Happy silver anniversary!

For those who don’t know, in each hour-long episode, teams of six contestants went around the titular maze, visiting each of four zones in turn. In each zone, they would face three or four games, played by a team member of their choice. These games would last between two and three minutes in length, and would be chosen from categories entitled physical, mental, mystery and skill. Each game would see the player have to enter a cell, attempt to retrieve a crystal and exit the cell within the time limit, but (generally) winning the crystal would require successfully completing a test of strength, agility, dexterity, balance, problem-solving, ingenuity, lateral thinking or sometimes just plain following instructions. Failure to escape within the permitted time, or sometimes making sufficiently many errors within a game, would see the player locked into that cell and would require the team to, optionally, relinquish a crystal won from another game in order to rescue the player from the cell. One all four zones had been visited, remaining team members aimed to collect certain foil tokens blown into the air within the Crystal Dome, having a time limit proportionate to the number of crystals they had remaining.

The show was distinctive and gained sufficient cult following to last six series, with much to commend it:

  • The games were frequently brilliantly designed, mostly great fun to watch and their sheer variety of games (typically close to fifty per series) meant that there’s a good chance, unless you’re a dedicated fan, that you’ll frequently be pleasantly surprised by something new.
  • The pace was tremendous; if a game is not to your taste, something different will come along within the next three or four minutes. (There were no artificial pauses, or replays, or contestant asides to camera, or any of the other modern additions which might feel dramatic but really just waste time.)
  • The set and soundtrack were elaborate, atmospheric and gorgeous; it’s fun to watch people enjoying themselves by playing with elaborate toys, and the show had some of the most spectacular vicarious fun to be found on TV.
  • The hosting by Richard O’Brien (in the first four series) was irreverent, witty, fantastic and didn’t take itself seriously. (Ed Tudor-Pole in the last two series? …if you ain’t living it, it ain’t coming out of your horn.)
  • The show had vast play-along-at-home value when you were able to work out what to do more quickly than the contestants; if you’re the sort of person who needs to make yourself feel superior to the contestants on-screen struggling and occasionally slightly suffering as a consequence of their mishaps, there were usually opportunities to do so.

The show has a certain timeless quality to it, by virtue of its time-travelling motif, and the production values were so high that it stands up on its own merits decades later. The show is sufficiently well-loved that the game show-focused Challenge TV channel here in the UK still show repeats from time to time; indeed, they are celebrating the anniversary with eight episodes in a row today – a classy, commendable touch. It would not be at all a surprise if the show were to go on to be repeated for decades further.

The Guardian has a story (from a couple of days ago) about the anniversary. The content is excellent, though the tone of the piece is a little incongruous and strained in places. The show is so well-loved, particularly among the game show fandom, that from time to time people discuss whether it might be remade; remade game shows, no matter how lovingly or accurately recreated, often tend to struggle and be brushed off with “It’s not the same“. Perhaps what people really mean is “I want to feel young again, and the show reminds me of when I was young”; the solution to that is something exciting and new… though possibly evocative of the hits of the past, and drawing upon their strengths. (It’s rare for a second host to match up to the original, and you couldn’t expect an increasingly frail 72-year-old Richard O’Brien to be nearly as kinetic as he was in his late forties and early fifties.)

The piece in The Guardian does perceptively touch upon the link between The Crystal Maze and the explosive growth of exit games; this site completely concurs. The Crystal Maze has become a byword (or, perhaps, a byphrase – a byname?) for any sort of TV challenge where part of the puzzle is to work out exactly what to do, or where the instructions may not be completely obvious. The “collection of minigames” format is not original to the show – see, for instance, the format that the world knows as The Price is Right, dating back at least a couple of decades earlier – but that is another familiar niche that the show has carved out as its own.

This site is convinced that The Crystal Maze‘s popularity and familiarity have contributed to the rapid public acceptance of exit games in the UK and Ireland. (It’s far from essential, though, looking at the success of the genre in countries which have never been exposed to the show.) Every country has its own favourite sort of intellectual game, but the phrase “it’s a bit like The Crystal Maze” has so immediate and familiar as to convey the key message of “go into a room, work out what the puzzles therein want you to do, solve the puzzles and get out within the time limit” in concise shorthand. Some sites refer to it explicitly when describing how their game works; even when they don’t, those who have played it will often make the comparison when describing the game to their friends – and it’s a comparison that is often so well-received as to make people want to play.

If that weren’t sufficiently connected to exit games enough, the first five series of the show each had one game that drew upon the murder mystery party games that had come to popularity in the 1980s – and, indeed, which some exit games can still be compared to. Enter the cell, there’s a dead body on the floor, it’s probably clutching an instruction, the instruction determines where to look within the intricately decorated cell and how to interact with the scenery, follow the chain of clues and eventually you’ll reach the last one which is rewarded with success – and hopefully you’ll do it before the time limit expires.

The show was popular enough to develop its own fan following, with Marc Gerrish’s site an excellent, database-like repository of information about each episode and every game played therein. It has screen grabs and statistics of these murder mystery games as played on the show in series one, two, three, four and five. (There wasn’t one in the sixth series, possibly because by that point each zone had hosted a murder mystery once and a sixth would’ve retrod old ground.) You can find a great many illicit videos of episodes of the series on YouTube; if you don’t want to spend the time looking up particular episodes and then finding particular games within them, you can just look at this wobble-vision off-screen recording of a contestant playing the murder mystery from series four.

If you were sufficiently keen on The Crystal Maze to watch more than a couple of episodes of it, there’s a good chance that you wanted to play the game and feel it for yourself. For years in (mostly) the early- and mid-’90s, there were a number of The Cyberdrome Crystal Maze attractions at bowling alleys and other family entertainment centres in the UK. This site has long planned to try to compose the paean to them that they deserve; their fading suggests that they may have been ahead of their time, or perhaps that they used unreliable technology that proved too hard to maintain, or perhaps they did not have the degree of repeat play value in practice necessary to pay their considerable way, or perhaps – just perhaps – The Crystal Maze might, sadly, have been just a bit too niche an interest after all. Nevertheless, this site is really impressed by Boda Borg, which would seem to have independently developed many of the same essentials. It has several sites in Sweden, one in Ireland and at least one is coming to the US within a few months.

Could the brand still have value in a participation experience in the UK these days? Perhaps, just perhaps. The particular challenges would include the need to establish dozens of different challenges, at a much greater physical location / rent cost than a typical exit game, the potential for much greater need to reset the games between plays (though the Cyberdrome games broadly handled that well) and either an intensive labour requirement for people leading the teams around the maze or an intensive tech requirement to direct people from game to game. There would certainly be some retro chic value to it, if ever it were to happen. We can but hope and dream… and improvise our own games until it happens, if ever it does. Tooooooooo the Crystal Dooooome!

Also happening this weekend: the second, Slovakian-authored, round of the WPF’s Puzzle Grand Prix series runs until the end of Monday, Central European Time. 90 minutes to earn points by solving puzzles of varying difficulty, with four puzzles of each of six different styles available. Take a look at the instruction booklet and see if any of the six types tickle your fancy. Also, if it’s Sunday night, it’s Quiz The Nation night, buuuuuut the official results from last week have not yet been posted and the official results from the week before have not had their prize payouts confirmed, so while these teething troubles are being sorted out, maybe play this one for fun (and, happily, it is fun) with the free credits supplied and more in hope than in expectation of the cash prizes.